â†µWhen you grow up in a small town near Philadelphia, you bleed sports. But you don't exactly bleed championships around here. Sure there were the titles in the early eighties, but I was two the last time the Phillies had won a World Series and fifteen the last time they made it to the Fall Classic. So when 2008 rolled around and the Phillies made it back to the Series, it was about as big a moment as you could imagine. â†µ
â†µThe morning after the Phillies clinched the NL pennant I drove over to the local sporting goods store to stock up on shirts and hats and jackets that, in two week's time, I'd never wear again if the Phillies won the title – but I didn't care. It was post-game carryover from just getting to the World Series that was burning a hole in my wallet, and tugging on every string my heart had. And I wasn't alone. There was a guy named Marty who felt about the same way as everyone else in Philly. He took the time, during a break from work, to call his favorite baseball show at XM's MLB Home Plate to talk about what getting back to the World Series meant to him. â†µâ†µ
â†µWhy Can't Us?
â†µAnd with that phone call, a phenomenon happened. â†µ
â†µWalking through the store, I could not get the saying out of my head. Why can't us? It's completely and utterly incorrect and yet, so Philly. Nobody has ever been sure if it was the nervous combination of 'why not us' and 'why can't we' or just the way Marty always talks. And frankly, I'm not sure which makes the story better. â†µâ†µ
â†µOn my way back from the store, I called Enrico at The700Level.com, where I had been writing at the time, and asked what he thought about the saying. He and I agreed it was, at the very least, worthy of posting on the site as a funny thing overheard on the radio to see how it's received. Daulerio at Deadspin agreed as well, and threw up a link to our post within minutes, putting out a directive for someone to 'put that on a shirt.' â†µâ†µ
â†µThanks AJ. â†µâ†µ
â†µHaving made many T-shirts for charity in the past, this idea had already crossed my mind, but when that request gets put on Deadspin, the clock starts ticking a little bit faster. Again, thanks AJ. I feverishly pounded out a few designs before settling on something simple with just the words Why Can't Us and the Liberty Bell. The back had Fightins '08 and the requisite plugs for my show and The700Level. Oh, and the font was called "Champion" so I thought it was a nice, subtle touch. And because nobody would help us promote this if we were making money off of it, I decided to donate the proceeds to the Philadelphia Chapter of ALS Association. We honestly expected to sell about 15 shirts. â†µâ†µ
â†µHere's the power of the Internet for you. We posted the shirt designs and so did Deadspin. Other Philly websites did as well, and soon a Facebook group for Why Can't Us was formed. The state-wide manhunt for Marty in Delaware was on. Nobody could find the guy. TV news stations were looking for him. There was an APB out for Marty on the XM station he originally called. The longer it took to find Marty the better. The Phillies had nearly a week before they were set to play in the World Series and this Why Can't Us thing went from an internet gag to a bonafide catch-phrase. Whodathunkit? â†µâ†µ
â†µTV crews came to my house and invited me in studio to help tell the Why Can't Us story. Local grammarians went nuts, clearly not getting the joke. Finally, someone found Marty. Turns out, his cousin joined the Facebook group and boasted that she was related to Marty. One of the local TV producers was scouring the board and contacted her, eventually doing an interview with the anonymous radio caller turned, well, local celebrity. Okay, celebrity might be taking it too far, but at least he became a person of interest. It turned out, he didn't even know we were looking for him, which really made the story that much better. â†µâ†µ
â†µThe local NBC affiliate convinced us both to come in studio and shoot a sit-down together. I was more than happy to promote the shirts and the websites and the charity venture. Marty was as nervous as I've ever seen someone on TV. It was great. His leg wouldn't stop shaking during the segment – it was live TV after all. And I'll never forget meeting one of the stuffed-shirt news anchors in the newsroom before the show. He asked me if this was my 'fifteen minutes' and how excited I was. He actually used the term 'fifteen minutes' as he chuckled, like the honor of witnessing the fast-paced world of local TV news was the highlight of my life to that point, silly peon that I was. I tried to explain that I had a growing internet radio show and wrote for several websites that thousands of sports fans listen to and read every day, so no, this was in fact not my 'fifteen minutes.' Maybe that line works with the ladies – or in this case Marty in Delaware – but not me, Tim Lake. I think you have an eyelash out of place, so you might want to call someone about that. (I have since made it my personal goal in life to crush Tim Lake.) â†µâ†µ
â†µAgain, when this started we expected to sell about a dozen or so shirts. I thought if we could raise $500 bucks for ALS it'd be a great story. In total, selling T-SHIRTS ON THE INTERNET, we raised $12,000 for charity. I still sell Why Can't Us shirts every few weeks. It's incredible. (Pictured: me – at right – with On the DL co-host Nick Tarnowski at the parade). â†µâ†µ
â†µObviously you know the rest of the story. The Phillies won the World Series. My wife and I had the good sense to listen to (and record) Harry Kalas call the entire ninth inning of Game Five and celebrated the first World Series either of us could remember in pantomime as to not pick up any sound of our excitement on the recording. If there was one singular moment of 2008 to remember, it was that ninth inning, called by Harry. â†µâ†µ
â†µMost people around here will remember 2008 as the year of the Phillies. I'll always remember it as the year of Us. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.